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“’I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth’” (John 17:13-19).

John’s Gospel is one of contrasts—to be of the spirit rather than of the flesh, this world as opposed to heaven, light instead of dark.

This passage from John was part of Jesus’ last discourse before his passion and resurrection. This reading is used in the liturgy between the feasts of the Ascension (when Jesus ascends to heaven) and Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit descends upon the followers of Jesus).

In John’s Gospel, to follow Jesus is to live in the light. “The world” here refers to those who have not understood Jesus’ message—those who ultimately arrest and kill him. Jesus knows that he will depart from the disciples’ presence. He is preparing them for the time when he will no longer be present in the flesh but will be with them in a different way. He tells them that they will be protected by God, as they are entrusted to be the bearers of Jesus’ mission.

So, why is this reading used between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost? Perhaps it is because as Jesus’ mission in the world had come to an end, he passed this mission along to the disciples. We, too, are the disciples of Jesus and must take up the mission of Jesus in the world. The end of the physical presence of Jesus was directly connected to the beginning of the new Church, which is enlivened and protected by the spiritual presence of Christ.

God is with us, no matter where we are or where we are going. Like the disciples, perhaps we also need to hear that we are protected, even as we are living through challenging times. This reading reminds us that every ending is another beginning—the beginning of something more powerful than we could have imagined.

What “in between” times have you been through? How have you experienced the presence of God in these times?

<Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.’ ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you’” (John 15:9-14).

We are challenged in this passage to follow and remain faithful to the commandments. We are to give of ourselves, even to the point of laying down our lives for others. Above all, we must love each and every other person as much as we are loved by God.

One words sums up this whole reading—Love.

Love is what we remain in and are faithful to. Love is what gives us comfort, challenges us, provides us strength, and love is what we must dare to share.

Our friendship with Jesus demands that we remain in that love. We have to work at sustaining our friendship with him by following the commandments. In baptism, we enter a community that commits itself to remaining in God’s love and to sharing that love with all whom we encounter.

What have been the moments when “remaining” has been difficult and challenging?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing’” (John 15:1-5).

Lent is about “pruning” bad habits and eliminating things that get in the way of our relationship with God, our selves, and others. Easter, on the other hand, is about the resurrection, new beginnings, and joy. It is the result of this pruning – a strengthened and invigorated relationship with God or a renewed outlook on life and faith. New life begins from where we have changed or withdrawn from old, unhealthy behaviors.

Think about it this way: When we are consumed by anger, we don’t have as much energy going toward love. We take that energy away from love to feed our anger. If we prune away that anger, we have that much more energy to give to something more constructive.

Now that Lent is over and the “pruning” is complete, we can see how we are connected to Christ and we can choose where to grow by redirecting our energy. Easter is a time to begin anew and become who we now can become only because those old encumbrances are gone.

Only branches that are connected to the vine produce grapes. So, too, will we be fruitful as long as we maintain our connection to Jesus. The Gospel tells us that as long as we live in Christ, even if we occasionally need a little pruning to make us stronger or better, we will always be fruitful.

How have you strengthened your relationship with God this Easter season?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Jesus-The-Good-Shepherd“Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep’” (John 10:11-15).

At one time or another, most of us have probably worked just for the financial reward—we punch in, punch out, and go through the motions. On the other hand, have you ever worked at doing something that you loved? Perhaps something that was challenging but that you found meaning in, and that you felt called to do?

In this gospel passage, Jesus spoke of himself as the good shepherd, as compared to the hired hand. The life’s work and call of a shepherd was to watch over his flock. It was his responsibility to see that no sheep went astray or was preyed upon. A shepherd didn’t just do his job; he was deeply invested in his sheep and herded them with care and concern. Jesus contrasted the good shepherd with the hired hand. The hired hand has no concern for the sheep but only for the reward of earning a day’s wages. When the wolf comes, the hired hand takes off, protecting only himself.

We know that, as the good shepherd, Jesus loves and cares for us. As Christians, we are called to share that love and care with those we serve and those with whom we work.

Ask yourself—are you just doing your job, or are you living out your vocation? Are you the hired hand, working only for the reward of money, prestige, or a line on your resume? Or are you the good shepherd who responds to the call of God, finding and giving meaning to the work you do and the people you encounter?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Carvaggio-Supper At Emmaus“And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things’” (Luke 24:40-48).

In this final post-resurrection appearance, the two disciples were startled and terrified when Jesus appeared to them. Can you imagine—Jesus who had died was in their midst? Was he a ghost? Jesus realized their fears and disbelief and invited them to look at him and touch him. He even asked for food to show them that there was no doubt that he was alive.

In their joy, the disciples came to understand not only the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but to realize that it was also their destiny and calling. Death never triumphs; life and love always have the final say. They were the witnesses of this glory and joy and were charged with spreading this Good News to “all the nations” (Luke 24:47).

Just as the disciples were part of this story and mission, we are too. Jesus lives in and through us. As witnesses of the risen Christ, we are invited to proclaim this Good News throughout our day-to-day encounters, our relationships, and the very way we live our lives. What better way to live than to share the joy of the love of Christ through our words, actions, and our encounters with each and every person we meet?

How do you witness the risen Christ in your life?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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